Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun (1986)

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Maverick was that close to kissing him.
Maverick would either punch him, or kiss him. Or just walk away. Or all three.

Twitter Plot Summary: The top pilots in the US Navy compete to become the Top Gun. Cocky pilot Maverick has to learn some stuff.

Genre: Action/Drama/Romance

Director: Tony Scott

Key Cast: Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Kelly McGinnis, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins, John Stockwell, Meg Ryan, Adrian Pasdar, James Tolkan

Five Point Summary:

1. Hey look, it’s Principal Strickland from Back to the Future!
2. Maverick by name, maverick by nature.
3. Take my… breath away… bum bum…
4. Cliche result for Goose, right there.
5. And off to the Indian Ocean they go.

It’s taken me a few years to see Top Gun, one of the very many “essential” films that I had still to check off the list. Ironically I’ve seen parodies of it more than I’ve seen the original. I’m not sure how that’s worked out over the years, but in any case I’ve now finally seen why Hot Shots found the concept so ripe for spoofing.

We begin with Maverick and Goose engaging in flight-based shenanigans with a couple of foreign MiG’s and having the skill/tenacity to invert their plane and flip off the other pilot. From this (and his previous daring flight exploits, naturally) he’s selected to enter the Top Gun programme, where the top 1% of US pilots engage in an intensive training regime to home their dogfighting skills. The constituent parts are all there – the cocky attitude, the love interest and the pilot rivalry. And thus, you have a film. Well, you need the central character to go on a voyage of self discovery, and amidst his cocky attitude, the topless male beach volleyball sessions and the ill-advised romance with the woman providing tactical training in the Top Gun programme, he does indeed go on that journey. It’s heavy on melodrama, to the point where it almost has a sense of inevitability. Top Gun won’t win awards for most original screenplay, that much is clear. You can telegraph Goose’s fate from the moment he discusses his wife and son – we all know where that’s heading. The remaining characters have no depth to them, but they serve their purpose on a surface level only.

Iceman could keep that ball spinning for hours.
Iceman could keep that ball spinning for hours.

Made many years before Tony Scott’s directorial style became a parody of itself, there’s nary a swirling camera in sight. The action is in fact surprisingly coherent. Even for a cinema goer who is not privy to the world of aviation, the flight sequences are clear and it’s easy to see what’s going on. Compared to the ground-based story those flight sequences are breathtaking (no Berlin-related pun intended) and are in all honesty the main reason for sitting through the film. Not to say that the ground-based story isn’t worth your time, it’s just nothing compared to the stuff going on in the skies. Performances from all involved are earnest, perhaps a little too much so, but it does add to the cheese-factor.

The soundtrack too, is exactly the right level of cheese. Mixing favourites (cough, splutter) such as Kenny Loggins, Loverboy and Berlin, the music complements the excessive testosterone on display. Full of that typical “drum in a cavern” sound that was a product of the 80s music scene, you can almost smell the bromance between Maverick and, well, pretty much all of the other pilots. Testosterone levels are off the chart and you get the feeling that at any second one of them might just make a lunge at one of the others. Not even the presence of Kelly McGillis can dispel the masculine posturing on display. So it’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly acceptable as a blockbuster popcorn movie.

Favourite scene: No, not the beach volleyball… the opening where Maverick flies inverted above a MiG.

Quote: “I feel the need… the need for speed!”

Silly Moment:  The beach volleyball…

Score: 3.5/5

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